All posts tagged: Church

Francis Chan: The pandemic may be good for the church

The recent COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown has resulted in one of the most difficult times for the church in North America. Experts are warning that there is a possibility that 20% of the churches many not even make it. Churches and believers in California face severe fines, and even jail, if they resume services during the lock down. READ: ‘We Are Not Closing,’ Pastor Declares after County Fines Church $52,750 for Worship Services Though many consider these to be dark days for the church, Frances Chan says these difficult times may in fact be a good thing for the North American church. Chan was the former lead pastor and founder of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. He has since left the church and is ministering in the slums of Hong Kong, where his mother once ministered. At Q Sessions, that featured several Christian leaders discussing the current pandemic crisis including attacks on religious liberties, Chan had this to say about what churches are facing today: “When you look at the places where there …

The nerd rapture: Are we in a religious revolution?

One rule about religion is that things change when communication changes. The first Christians spoke and wrote on scrolls. Things changed with bound books, and then printing presses, which produced the Protestant Reformation. Radio, and television, and now the Internet have radically changed human communication, and we can expect big changes in the way people find God. Some people call this the nerd rapture. We are connected by the Web, and this year we are isolated by a virus pandemic. Expect changes. In the time of scrolls and preachers, Jesus told His followers to communicate: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16: 15 and 16) That is easier to do that now, than any time in history. The speaker on the TEDx video predicts a religious revolution based on communication. He mixes in his own advice, but he is correct with his basic prediction.

Orthodox Rituals in a Changing World: How do believers cope?

What we do might have to change, for health reasons. Belief is important to any Christian, but many struggle to adapt their practices. Eastern Orthodox Christians have many rituals, practices that are sacred to them, but they also have a health emergency. This new world can bring us all back to the starting place; “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) We might laugh as the priest in a country area, but he is trying to keep his faith in challenging times. On a larger scale, many churches are struggling to adapt to a world-changing crisis.

Preparing for the end times

When the warden for All Saints’ Radford church in Nottinghamshire showed up at the church on Sunday, July 26, 2020, Lorraine Smedley discovered that vandals had painted upside down crosses and swastikas on the church building. The Nottinghamshire police referred to it as a “hate crime.” Across the English Channel in France, reports indicate the number of attacks against Christian churches in that country has increased nearly 300% in just 12 years according to the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDACE), a Venice-based organization. OIDACE reports that in 2018, the French government officially stated that there were 275 attacks, fires and vandalism, against churches in that county. That number had climbed to 1,052 attacks by 2019, representing a 285% increase. Recently, there was an arson attack on a 500-year-old Cathedral in Nantes, France on July 18, 2020. Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg because these simply represent threats and attacks against physical structures. In 2018, the French government reported that there were 2,000 hate crimes against Christians. Though …

Several churches vandalized over the past week

According to an article on Fox News, several churches across the US were attacked in the last week and authorities are wondering if this is related to the recent protests. Fox News writes: A slew of Catholic churches from Florida to California were burned and vandalized over the weekend as police continue to investigate whether or not they are connected to protests targeting symbols and statues. Following George Floyd’s police-related death in May, Black Lives Matter leaders and protesters called for the toppling of statues, from Confederate symbols to former U.S. presidents and abolitionists. Activist Shaun King called for all images depicting Jesus as a “White European” and his mother to be torn down because they’re forms of “White supremacy” and “racist propaganda.” The list included:  A man drove his car into Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Florida during a morning service. He then got out of the car poured gasoline and set fire to the church while people were inside. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The man allegedly suffered from schizophrenia. The 249-year-old San Gabriel church in Los Angeles, California also had a major fire. The church …

Religions: Who has the money?

Any time you want to offend people and start an argument, talk about religion and money. Tithing, or regular giving is also a good spark. I believe that giving regularly leads us to manage all of our money carefully; counting is accounting. But who has the most money? Atheists and Agnostics are near the top, and among religions, Jews, Hindus, and Episcopalians (Anglicans). Mormons are average, Jehovah’s Witnesses are below, and historically black groups are poor. Managing what we have, much or little, is a project for everyone, and it’s a lesson some haven’t learned. Jesus told us about a disorganized man “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” (Luke 14:30) READ: You’ll Be Surprised at Which Religions Have the Most Members with $100K+ Incomes

Good News in a Pandemic

Sometimes people just act out what they are. A group of Christians noticed that people were hungry in their community, so they organized a food distribution program. The Corona virus pandemic is scaring us all, and it keeps us isolated from our neighbors. Those Christians acted out and gave food to the neighbors, because those neighbors were hungry. I don’t know them but I guess it just seemed like simple math. People like this deserve our respect. The true Christian Church is not a charity, it’s a home for recovering sinners. When we get a new life from God, with a new perspective, good things just naturally happen. READ: Local church feeds 200 people impacted by pandemic

Government’s latest COVID-19 conspiracy theory

Apparently, some governments believe COVID-19 can be transmitted through car exhaust. When a small church in Greenville, Mississippi decided to hold a drive-in church service, where people stayed in their cars and listened to the service in the parking lot through low-frequency FM, the mayor ordered 20 police officers to storm the church and stop this dangerous gathering. Since the parishioners were not getting out of their vehicles, are we to presume these people were breaking the law because their cars were not wearing masks? READ: Police Officers Storm Mississippi Church for Hosting Drive-In Services

Who is the Jewish Messiah — Jesus or Rabbi Schneerson?

There is an interesting story on Breaking Israel News (BIN) of how a group of Orthodox Jews from an organization called the Yad L’Achim recently prevented a Christian missionary group from baptizing several Jews in the Sea of Galilee. There was no mention of  the name of the Christian organization. The plan was to transport the Jews from Tel Aviv to Tiberias for the baptism. According to BIN the organization decided to baptize the Jews on the sabbath believing it would hinder any opposition as the Old Testament law limits travel on the sabbath for Orthodox Jews. But apparently there was away around it, or they just ignored the prohibition against travel and about 15 students who attended a Yad L’Achim religious school in Tel Aviv made their way to the spot that the Jews were preparing to load a bus to Tiberias. Some orthodox Jews were wearing shirts, “Jew stop! Christianity is not our way.” There was a bit of a confrontation at the bus between the missionaries and the members of Yad L’Achim …

Pay to Pray: Can We Afford God?

I have just spent some time in an isolated northern city where real estate is too expensive. All the churches are small, and I think there is a mosque and a Sikh temple. I’m not sure about the religious buildings because they are all small, and easy to miss. A big building costs millions. Next to the house where I stayed is a house church. It looks to me like one church operates out of the members houses, and it seems to be doing well. One church petitioned the city to take over some park land and change it to a parking lot. They wanted the land for free, but they promised to invest more than a million dollars. I understand the mayor attends that church, and you can imagine the angry debate in the community. I heard yesterday that the church had withdrawn the request. So, how do we worship God when a parking lot costs a million dollars? And how do we pay the salaries for pastors, so they can support their families? …

Church in Hishult, Sweden Credit: Jacob Surland/Flickr/Creative Commons

Where Is the Love?

Cue Black Eyed Peas I always seem to get a giddy feeling when I see competitive sports with good sportsmanship. Something about the opposing team helping their opposition up off the ground, giving acknowledgement when someone makes a good play against you, or giving a high-five after a solid punch to the face. Granted, it’s not a very common occurrence, but I absolutely love to see that type of comradery from the opposition. But then, the question begs to be asked: Why do we lack this type of behavior in the church? I don’t mean to say that it doesn’t exist, but nearly every church has seen some kind of separation through its years. I haven’t seen anything extreme, but I’ve heard of people getting worked up enough over the music or seating arrangement that they feel the need to find a new home for Sunday morning. A couple of years ago, I did see some division in my home church. While I won’t get into the specifics of what went on, one of the …

Credit: Sydney Daoust/Flickr/Creative Commons

Oh, you are such a loser!

A new buzz word in pop psychology is “vulnerable.” There is some good advice out there, and this idea can be good for us. If I looked at you and said “loser!” I would be rude, and you would take that as an insult. We learned that in elementary school. So, “loser!” I just called you a loser, and you can say the same to me. If we are not losers, we are failures. Every Christian should know the words in the Bible “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) That is the bedrock of our Christian faith. Jesus made it right, after we made it wrong. A few days ago, I had a meeting with an old friend. We talked about business and we also had time to catch up on our personal stories, like old friends. This man is a Christian, my brother in Christ, and he described himself as …

Credit: EBCanon/Flickr/Creative Commons

Your Money and the Church – Part 3

Here is one of the best secrets for managing your generosity and giving of money: Don’t. If you spend any time among religious people, you will be asked for money. When I go to church on Sunday, there is always an offering, a time when all other business stops and the ushers collect money from us. I have lived with this all my life and I have an acquired immunity, but some people who come with me are offended and disoriented. What will God think about them if they don’t give enough? So, don’t give. The exercise will be good for you. Yesterday I was walking in the mall. It’s not really my place but I had a meeting with someone. At an intersection in the walkways, I saw a display booth with two young women looking hopeful. They represented one of those Christian charities that sponsor children and they were looking for sponsors. I won’t name the organization, but there are several and they do very good work. What bothered me was all the …

There are no racial barriers in God’s church

I don’t think we fully appreciate the significance of what happened when the Holy Spirit fell upon a group of gentiles as Peter was preaching in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48). It took a vision for Peter, where God declared a number of animals clean, and an angelic visit for Cornelius to get these two groups together. After the Holy Spirit fell, it caused such a controversy in the early church they called a meeting to figure out what do to with the hundreds of gentiles becoming Christians. But a few Bible verses and even archaeology provide a hint of what a radical change this was for the early church that was initially made up of solely Jews. In 1871 a stone slab from the Jewish Temple that existed in Jesus day was discovered by archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau. On the slab written in Greek was: “No foreigner is allowed to enter the courtyard and enclosure surrounding the temple. Whoever is caught will be responsible to himself for his death, which will ensue.” Greek was …

Roof of booths set up in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles Credit: Yoninah/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Converging end times prophecies of Orthodox Jews and Christians

Breaking Israel News (BIN) has always been a source of interesting articles. Published by a group of Orthodox Jews, I find that they have much in common with Christians. They believe the Old Testament is the inspired Word of God and though they reject Jesus as the Messiah, they nevertheless are looking ahead to the coming Jewish Messiah. And while we look at events taking place on earth as a sign of Jesus second return, they interpret many of those same signs as evidence of the Jewish Messiah’s coming. Recently BIN published an article listing five Biblical prophecies fulfilled in 2017 that pointed to the soon arrival of the Jewish Messiah. In her article, Eliana Rudee the first one she discusses is: “Jerusalem as a place of assembly for non-Jews.” There were a number of Old Testament prophecies that spoke of the gentiles pouring into Israel at the end of the age. In her article, Rudee cites a verse out of Zechariah: 16 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the …

Polwarth, England Credit: Hamish Irvine/Flickr/Creative commons

The Critical Mass: How We Can Fail

On Sunday, in church, the pastor told us about people who had been helped in the last year. He told testimonial stories about cancer patients and struggling families. And then he told us about a man who had walked into the church to learn more. He was not a Christian, but he was interested. The pastor talked to him and gave him a book, and a few weeks later the man called to say that he had decided to become a Christian. Now he attends the Sunday services as a new Christian, growing in his faith. The man’s name is Mohammed. We live in interesting times. Now Muslim majority countries are modernizing, and Muslims are migrating to other countries with high levels of personal freedom. That means people can break free from the group, and choose how they want to live. This is becoming a crisis, as some young Muslims identify as atheists. Others, like Mohammed, choose another religion. RELATED: Losing their religion: the hidden crisis of faith among Britain’s young Muslims: The Guardian The …

Ritsumazijl, Frise, Netherlands Credit: Hindrik Sijens/Flickr/Creative Commons

How far is far enough?

[by Keith Hazell] “Don’t go too far dear.”  These were frequent words that I heard from Mother when I was growing up. Usually, it was a warning that there was an unmarked perimeter that I should not pass. However, once on a beach in the UK during the Second World War, the warning was to remind me not to go under the barbed wire onto the sand where land-mines were buried. Thus to hear such a warning, is to realize that going beyond certain limits where things appear ok, can actually put us in mortal danger. One of the currents going through the church to-day questions the value and purpose of church as we have known it in the past. It is said that the church has no relevance and its meetings are no longer a place where believers can actively and meaningfully interact and express the life of Christ. There is a legitimate need to get back to a simpler form of Christian Life and to re-discover the lifestyle and benefits of a closer …

Wailing Wall in Jerusalem Credit: Fernando+Merced/Flickr/Creative Commons

Is the church actually the continuation of Israel?

It’s an age-old question. Is the church the continuation of Israel or something completely new that God started after Israel failed to fulfill God’s will? The church under this latter scenario is God’s second choice, an afterthought. To bring some perspective on this I was intrigued by an article on Breaking Israel News about a sermon recently preached by a famous Hasidic Jewish Rabbi Alon Anava. He was speaking at the 23rd anniversary of the death of another renown orthodox Rabbi, Menachem Schneerson. In his sermon Anava spoke of the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Though the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, orthodox Jews still believe in a promised Messiah. In fact, many believe signs suggest that the Jewish Messiah will be revealed very soon. But Anaya said in order for the Messiah to come, the Jews must first preach the Torah to the gentiles: “You know what is missing? The nations of the world. Now all we need to do is involve a couple billion people from the other nations to be part of the redemption.” …

Fortified bridge of the town of Besalu, Spain Credit: Mariluz Rodriguez/Flickr/Creative Commons

Evangelical church growing in Spain and France

Reading reports out of Europe, you get the impression that the Christian church is not doing well. And though it’s true the Roman Catholic and liberal churches are in decline pretty much like they are around the world, the Evangelical church is doing fine. A recent report by the Spanish Government says the Evangelical church is on the upswing in Spain. According to the Religious Plurality report released by the country’s Justice ministry, as of December 31, 2016 there are 3,910 Evangelical churches in Spain, up from 3,769 in 2015, an increase of 141. In other words, last year a new Evangelical church opened in that country every two and a half days. These numbers only included registered churches and do not include unregistered house churches or Bible study/prayer groups. The report added that the Evangelical church is also the fastest growing religion in Spain. Religion analyst Maximo Alvarez who described the increase as a “great upturn,” said the growth has been most pronounced since 2000. With 46 million people, there is still a need …

Sameba (Trinity) church in Tbillsi, Georgia Credit: Berdo Maghularia/Flickr/Creative Commons

One More Way to Kill a Church

This is my fourth time to write about how to kill a church, and I think this is enough; I don’t want to get morbid. But it is simply true that success or failure depends on us. God hasn’t moved, and “Trust and obey” is still the route to great things. The world around us will never hold us back. I once heard about a new church in my city that met in a rented building downtown. Successful churches are usually in the suburbs, with Christian families and free parking, so I had to check this place out. I am still surprised; on a Sunday morning I walked into a huge auditorium filled with young adults, and they were all talking at once. Loud and lively conversations were everywhere. I didn’t have any young friends to chat with, so I sat down and waited for the service to start. As I waited, a young woman came and sat beside me, with her head turned to a conversation. I knew what was coming and I waited …

Church in Iceland Credit: washingtonnydc/Flickr/Creative Commons

Survey shows believing the Bible the key to church growth

According to survey by researchers in Ontario, Canada, churches with Conservative, Bible-based theology are the fastest growing of Christian churches. In fact, the membership numbers for churches that have rejected a literal interpretation of the Bible are in a free fall. According to the English newspaper, The Guardian, attendance at liberal mainline churches in Canada has dropped by 50% since the 1960s and in England Sunday attendance at the largely liberal Church of England has fallen by a similar percentage since the 1980s. The research team led by David Haskell described those with a “conservative Protestant theology” as the “clear winner.” In their report entitled “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Churches” the group surveyed 2,225 people attending churches in Ontario and conducted more in-depth interviews with 195 church attendees and 29 clergy. According to The Guardian, while studies in the past concluded that theology had no impact on church growth, this survey showed it clearly did. Haskell noted that growing churches “held more firmly to the traditional beliefs of Christianity and …

Harvest time is hard work Credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle/Flickr/Creative Commons

How to Kill a Church – Part 3

The U.S.A. just had an election and the whole world is talking about it. I live in Canada, so I don’t want to add to the discussion; Americans know how to manage their own country. Before we forget though, Donald Trump surprised the world by winning, and Hillary Clinton shocked her loyal followers by losing. Before the vote, he labored to convince the doubters to vote for him, and she convinced her friends to love her more. We had the same pattern where I live in 1992; Nancy Betkowski was an educated, sophisticated woman who was going to be our provincial leader. Her rival was Ralph Klein, a journalist who drank too much. At the leadership convention Nancy went to bed knowing she had the majority vote the next day. Ralph stayed up all night working the crowd and trying to convince his enemies to vote for him. Nancy appeared for her coronation the next morning, and we were all stunned when Ralph won the vote. He missed some sleep and worked very hard, and …

A church in Egge, Norway. Credit: Gert Andreas Barring/Flickr/Creative Commons

How to Kill a Church – Part 2

One man in Japan made himself famous for a few days in October. He is probably the most surprised, but a comedian named Piko Taro made a video and millions of people watched it. He is a viral one-hit wonder. There is one thing he did not do; he did not wreck the conversation. Mr Taro did some excellent teaching, even if we learned nothing. The conversation was phatic, the teacher opened the channel of communication and maintained it. You probably watched right to the end. Everything was presented well, from the lighting and camera focus, to his costume and smile, and his dance and song, and his enunciation, and more. Also, I am sure someone did some preparation. The only thing missing is a message. I am sure Mr Taro could have added an important message to his presentation, and the world would have listened. He could have convinced us of something, or asked for money. The video is now filled with other people’s promotions and additions. They will be selfish if he isn’t. …

Church in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland Credit: Glen Forde/Flickr/Creative Commons

How to Kill a Church, Part 1

In the modern world, we have a culture that is dying. Follow any election news and you know what I mean. Prosperous and democratic societies are severally stressed these days. If you follow political and social commentary, you know, we listen to intelligent comments from comedians. One comedian, Norm MacDonald, tried to get serious with another comedian who made fun of Christians. But really, we don’t get intelligent comments from comedians, we get entertainment. Sometimes the comedy is intelligent, but it’s only jokes to make us laugh. Many comedians are very good at what they do, but we should be concerned about what they don’t do. If there is a problem, it’s with us. There seems to be no interest in thinking, teaching, and learning to make things better. Someone told me recently; we have this amazing Internet so we can talk to anyone in the world, about anything, and solve any problem, but we send each other funny pictures of cats behaving badly. Entertainment rules; comedians sell us what we want to buy, and …

Baltimore protests Credit: Arish Azizzada/Flickr/Creative Commons

Does the Holy Spirit want to heal the racial divide?

When a young Black man, Mark Ross, found out his sister, 15, had just been killed in a car crash, he immediately wanted to go home and be with his family. Without a car, he talked a friend into making the drive from Indiana to Detroit, Michigan. It was 3 am when they left and the troubles started when they arrived in Ohio. Police pulled over their vehicle for speeding. Unfortunately, Mark’s friend who was driving had a suspended license and police arrested him and impounded the car. Ross was distraught. He was still a hundred miles from home and now had no way to get there. But then a white police officer, Ohio State patrolman Sgt David Robison showed up. In a Facebook post, Ross explained what happened next: “I broke down crying and he saw the sincerity of my cry. He reaches over and began praying over me and my family.” But there was still one unresolved issue. Ross had an outstanding warrant with Michigan Wayne County. When Robison contacted the sheriff’s office, …

London, England Credit: Nick Kenrick/Flickr/Creative Commons

Predict the Future with Heinrich’s Triangle

Is Christianity dying? In the future, will the religion of Jesus even exist? Well, yes and no. One critical writer did an excellent job of explaining why Christianity is dying in the USA. Many years ago I led a church planting effort in a small town. Every Sunday morning I would get up early, walk to the bus depot, and ride about 100 miles to a small town. Our lowest attendance was two other people, and two cats. That happened many times, but eventually the group grew until a resident pastor could move in. But I am sorry to say, after a few years, in that very small town, the decision was made to close the church down. Imagine; all that effort for nothing! Herbert William Heinrich is one of the great pioneers of workplace safety, and many of his ideas were expressed with number ratios. He could predict your future with the numbers in his triangle ratio 300-29-1. Mr Heinrich was concerned about your chances of avoiding injury or death in the near future, …

Model of Herod's Temple at the Israel Museum. Photo: Berthold Werner/Wikipedia

What will Israel’s third temple look like?

An interesting article on Breaking Israel News (BIN) recently caught my attention. I have reported previous how some Orthodox Jews in Israel are preparing for the construction of a third Temple – the first one being Solomon’s temple and the second built by King Herod that was in place during Jesus’s day and destroyed in 70 AD. A group of Orthodox based in Israel found the The Temple Institute (TTI) in 1987 to prepare for the construction of a third temple. TTI has already made a number of temple utensils (including a massive altar), ordered architectural drawings for a new temple and even started a school to train priests in how to make sacrifices. Their desire to build a third temple is based in part on an Old Testament prophecy found in Ezekiel. In a vision, God carries the Prophet Ezekiel to a future temple that is not remotely similar to either of the two temples previously constructed (Ezekiel 40). This leads some to conclude that God intends to have a third temple built. However, …

Photo: Leonard J Matthews/Flickr/Creative Commons

How Christianity is dying …. or is it?

There is a huge debate about Christianity these days. Many people thinks it’s an antique ideology, disappearing rapidly. I don’t want to argue, but my recent experience might help. My home city used to be the Bible belt of Canada. Our provincial premier, similar to a state governor, was also a Baptist radio preacher. My brother once went to a children’s meeting at the Fundamentalist Baptist Church, and a dignified older man said hello. That was him. We also had a mention in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” for Holy Row, or Church Street, a small area with the highest concentration of churches in the world. That Ripley’s thing might be an urban legend but we all believed it. Today, that inner city street is crowded with old churches and my personal favourite is the Danish Lutheran building. Some of those churches are still open, but Holy Row not so holy now. A few years ago my church moved to some place north of the city, into cow and chicken country, and I moved south; …

Families are the happiest when attending church.

Study: Marriages are the happiest when couples attend church

A study released by the Institute of Family Studies concluded that marriages are the happiest when both members of a couple attend religious services or if the husband does. In contrast, the least happiest are those where neither person attends or the just the wife does. The study entitled Better together: Religious attendance, gender and relationship was written by W. Bradford Wilcox of University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project and Professor Nicholas Wolfinger from the University of Utah. For their report the two analyzed data from the National Survey of Religion and Family conducted in the US in 2006. After accounting for other factors such as economic well-being and education, they discovered: 78% of couples when both or just the husband attended church considered themselves “very” or “extremely” happy. 67% of couples considered themselves happy when neither attended services. Only 59% of couples said they were happy when just the wife attended religious services. The two stated that the reason they believe religious services are a contributing factor to successful relationships is because they are …

Northridge megachurch in Plymouth, Michigan. Photo: Dwight Burdette/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Study reveals weaknesses in mega churches

A study just released by Duke University revealed a concerning weakness in big churches. The larger a church becomes the more sporadic its members are when it comes to church attendance and less likely they are to volunteer. The study was conducted by David Eagle, who teaches at Duke’s Center for Health Policy and Inequalities. Eagle formerly pastored a church in Canada and it was this experience that led to his interest in conducting the study. In an interview with the Christian Post, he said while in Canada there was a major push by his denomination on church growth. He was told larger churches would result in more non-Christians attending. Eagle said: “I was skeptical of this approach, and began to think that an emphasis on growth could lead to unintended consequences — things like creating a less involved membership.” For his study he analyzed data from the National Congregations Study and the General Social Survey in the US. He compared church attendance among four major church groups — Conservative Churches, Roman Catholic, Black Protestant …